Monday, October 29, 2012


Saturday, October 28 at Plush

You know it's a party when Catwoman and Ryan Gosling show up—not the real Ryan Gosling (or the real Catwoman for that matter), but a reasonable facsimile. It's the Halloween show season, and it's time for people to get dressed up as fictional characters and go to shows. Seattle's Minus The Bear showed up to the party as a rock band, though everyone knows they're a dance-pop group with better guitars. Omaha's Cursive showed up as a sensitive indie rock group, but everyone knows they're a post-Fugazi post-hardcore punk/singer-songwriter fusion of confessional, confrontational songs.
San Antonio's Girl In A Coma came as a three-girl punk band, but everyone knows they're a sleek mix of rockabilly and classic rock, with the occasional touch of Smithsy beauty.

Not that the bands were really in costume, but much like the music behind them, it spoke a lot to expectation versus reality. The narrative threads that tie the bands together can be boiled down to this: we all go through our own versions of hell, and we can all relate because the experiences are so universal.

Up first, fighting the PA at times for clarity, was Girl In A Coma, the newest of the three bands in terms of existence. But the type of brutal/pretty push/pull power-pop or pop-punk they do so well has been around long enough for people to get the idea. Lead singer and guitarist Nina Diaz's right arm is emblazoned with a tattoo of a Telecaster, broadcasting her love with both music and her role in this band. You have to be in love, to make songs that are so purely hopeful and unironic as "Hope" and "Adjust" from their newest album, Exit Signs and All The Rest. Fueled by a bad-ass rhythm sectionJenn Alva on bass and Phanie Diaz, Nina's sister, on drums—Girl In A Coma pick their favorite punk tropes, apply their own favorite—Morrissey, Joan Jett, Patsy Cline—and create a rattling indie rock that seduces and destroys.

Second on the roster are aging former Fugazi-style punks Cursive. Actually, calling Tim Kasher a punk is like calling Morrissey some depressed guy. Kasher is the lead singer and creative force behind Cursive, and what he and the band do is take broad emotional concepts—disillusionment, disappointment, anger, fear, pain—and write them in the sky in blood.  Their albums deal in varying degrees of autobiographical lyrical content, tackling suburban alienation ("Happy Hollow"), growing up and finding out life isn't a fairy tale ("The Ugly Organ"), and marital discord ("Domestica"). Painful subjects, and seemingly not ripe for the singalong treatment, but that's Cursive's specialty. Crowd-response favorites included the pure unadultered angst of "Rise Up! Rise Up!," and the sickly, self-deprecating "Art Is Hard."  The set featured some great cuts from a wide swath of their albums, which happily included "The Radiator Hums"—quite possibly the finest song ever written about divorce, from their 2000 album "Domestica." Cursive has undergone major style shifts from album to album, adding and subtracting horn sections, violins and keyboards over the course of the past five records, but somehow all of these myriad flourishes were covered by touring multi-instrumentalist Patrick Newbery, who played trumpet, organ and pretty much anything and everything. That allegiance to the sounds created in the records tells you all you need to know about Cursive’s dedication to their fans—they recreated even the dissonant violin/cello bursts of “Gentleman Caller,” because they know the song calls for it and the fans expect it. Kasher was even appreciative of the surroundings, pausing for a moment during their dozen-song set to take in the view from the stage of the nearly sold-out Plush. “Nice establishment you’ve got here,” he said. For a band that deals in the languishing death of the American Dream (evidenced by their set-closing “Dorothy At Forty”), they seemed genuinely surprised both by the crowd’s size and its tenacity.

Last but certainly not least is Seattle's Minus The Bear. It's really hard, as someone who writes about music, to classify exactly what Minus The Bear is. Are they a dance-rock band with better guitars? Are they a rock band with danceable songs? Who got their peanut butter in my chocolate? Whatever you want to call them, they serve up memorably funky tunes and the crowd on hand at Plush knew all the complicated grooves, including those few brand-new tunes from their just-released full-length, Infinity Overhead. But the classics still ruled: "Absinthe Party at the Fly Honey Warehouse," from their 2002 debut Highly Refined Pirates (besides being the best song title Minus The Bear has ever come up with), is definitely their most popular tune, which is why it was kind of shocking that they dropped it so early in the set. 

Regardless of sub-genre classifications and marginalia, the crowd that showed up for Minus The Bear was there to party. If one had forgotten that the show preceded Halloween by a few scant days, one could be mistaken in thinking the show was a mini-ComiCon worth of nerdy extroverts who just came to have a good time. The band was obviously the main attraction within this set of three big bands, standing at the corner of Synth-Pop Ave and Indie Rock Boulevard, and eliciting both non-stop dancing and non-stop smiles among the amassed faithful. The immediacy of their songs encourages a blissful loss of self, so the whole set is a solicitation to submerge oneself in drinks, nostalgia and the mundane details of our shared lives. In response, the audience fervor for the band is almost at the level of jam-band devotion, eliciting shout-along sing-offs and the fevered dancing mostly seen at Schwagstock. Plush briefly became the fairgrounds for a carnival of celebration; there was even a wandering waitress serving ice cream cones and French fries, as well as a pair of beachballs flung into the air at the show's climax, putting the cherry on top of the carnival-like celebratory atmosphere. Band and crowd reached perfect synergy, letting loose like the end of the world was approaching. And who knows, it just might have been, though the celebrating crowd at Plush would have been hard-pressed to acknowledge that the world outside even existed.

by Jason Robinson

A.C. Newman tonight at the Duck Room

I first heard the songs of A.C. Newman in the background of a telephone call when I was in high school. Across telephone wires and though the receiver, there was a sound that was both familiar and brand new at the same time. These were the sounds of the first New Pornographers record, Mass Romantic. I was so ecstatic and elated that I went out to my local record store and bought the CD the next day. Flash forward to 2012: The New Pornographers hit album five album two years ago, and Carl (A.C.) Newman has just released his fabulous and personal third solo record, Shut Down the Streets. One of the great things about his work as a solo performer is that his songwriting is always consistent, no matter what name he performs under or who he’s playing with. Expect the majority of the catchy songs played at the Duck Room to be culled from the new album, as well as some of the memorable tracks from Get Guilty and The Slow Wonder. This time around, Carl will be joined by a full band of touring musicians: Paul Rigby on guitar, Megan Bradfield on bass, Nick Kinsey on drums (on loan from Elvis Perkins in Dearland), Chris Miller on flute and clarinet, and Zach Tenorio-Miller on keyboards.

Opening the show is Omaha-based The Mynabirds, fronted by the memorable Laura Burhenn, formerly of the short-lived Georgie James. Their second album, the politically themed Generals, was released on Saddle Creek earlier this year. Get there early, because this is one powerful band that you will not want to miss.
by Jack Probst

Thursday, October 25, 2012

PREVIEW: Sunday Night At The Opera With Primus

Huey Lewis once said “Hey we’re just another San Francisco band that just wants to play music” – or something like that.  Primus is too.  More than 25 years into their career they have dodged labels and reinvented themselves so often that they truly reflect the influences of the Bay Area that produced them.  One of Les Claypool’s feet is stomping in thrash and hardcore while the other floats somewhere above and around the trippy psychedelic sound the spawned the 60’s Bay Area sound.  Sometimes Primus wants to plant their foot in your head and sometimes they want to blow it off clean your shoulders.    Claypool himself is a half mad carnival barker and virtuoso bass player.   Larry LeLonde is the laid back guitar player and foil to Les’ manic act.  Jay Lane is the latest (and indeed, original) in a line of drummers all who pounded a wicked backbeat while they tried to keep up with Les. 

Sunday night, they are bringing the latest incarnation of their circus to The Peabody Opera House and this one is a doozy.   With the Blues sitting this fall out, Primus is sure to rattle the building next door like Blues fans would in a game seven against the Red Wings.   But that’s not all!  They are also bringing a 3D screen show and quadraphonic sound that is sure to lift the building like a 1969 Grateful Dead show would have.   It’s going to produce two solid sets of hand banging and hippie twirling – with 3D glasses!

Primus playing last year at Bonnaroo. In 2D

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

L.A. Brings the Mountain to Mohammed

Make the drive to catch Little Red Lung!

Little Red Lung / Dubb Nubb / Dustin Hamman / Wooden Burial Ground
October 26
The Dome, Ashland MO

Little Red Lung is a four-piece outfit from Los Angeles, CA. On October 26, they’re coming to The Dome in Ashland, MO—135 miles west of STL on I-70, just south of Columbia—to rock your face. Little Red Lung was started by singer and keyboardist Zoe-Ruth Erwin in 2007. She has gathered consummate musicians around her to craft a unique, dramatic and often eerie sound. With a marked originality that cuts through an often superficial L.A. scene, their self-titled album may be the West Coast’s best of 2012. 

In 2010, Erwin brought Little Red Lung to play with Dubb Nubb at Foam in St. Louis and The Hair Hole in Columbia, MO, but they haven't been back in Missouri since. She wrote a lot of the album in East Tennessee, and sees a real difference between musical cultures. In a recent interview at the L.A. Art Walk, she shared her excitement to play again in the Midwest.

“In L.A., a lot of bands have the same type of tone because they’re all influenced by each other and because all the bands know each other too," she said. "Touring through the South and the Midwest, I feel like there is a lot more originality to the bands. Everyone out there isn’t just striving to just be a star, which a lot of people are doing here. People out there are really creating.”

Though they aren’t preoccupied with image, the band definitely has a look. Erwin’s photography background lends itself to extravagant costume and striking lighting for their promo pics and album cover. Their songs are theatrical, often begging for video footage (check out their video for 50 Fingers”). The entire project is written, recorded, and mixed by the band. They’ve also been booking all of their own tours. “We’re not the kind of people who are going to wait around for somebody to come and help us out,” says guitarist Ali Nikou.
Still from "50 Fingers" directed by Sarah Sitkin

“I think if you’re determined enough as a group of people, you can do promotional stuff on your own—if everyone puts in a lot of work," Erwin say. "The thing is, it is a lot of work. So if you’re booking a tour and sending out press stuff, you barely have time to rehearse, so it’s not like you have time to work on your songs or write new ones. It’s almost like you have to choose what your priorities are.”

Though they live a couple thousand miles away, Little Red Lung doesn't lack for Missouri connections: Erwin produced two albums for Columbia/STL band Dubb Nubb (see Eleven's feature on Dubb Nubb in the September '12 issue), as well as a compilation album called Feels Like Coming Home on Special Passenger Records. This will be their first time playing at The Dome, a one-of-a-kind, dome-shaped venue that has been running since 2009. As the home of Columbia’s Hooten Hallers, the space has been centered around their shows and friends for many years, but has recently taken on a more active role in the local music scene. Five dogs roam the property, bands are welcome to crash, partake of the food, and enjoy the secluded grounds. In recent months, the Dome has played host to Paper Bird, CS Luxem, Paleo, Children Of Spy, Cloud Dog and more. 

The bill is packed for the Ashland show: Little Red Lung will be reunited with Dubb Nubb, and both Dustin Hamman of Run On Sentence and Wooden Indian Burial Ground will be playing as well. 

After playing in Missouri, Little Red Lung plans to move south toward Knoxville, TN. They’ll be recording at Live and Breathing, a portable studio that records, videos, and edits concerts in unconventional locations. Then they’ll return home to record more. “We have another full-length album in our pockets," says drummer John Broeckel. "We’re champing at the bit.”

When in California, Little Red Lung records at Blastermaster Productions, owned and managed by Nikou. “It’s convenient to have your own place,” Nikou says. “We're able to get everything the way we want it. So if it’s not an awesome album, there is no one to blame but us.”

If you live anywhere near Ashland and miss this show, you’ll have no one to blame but yourself.

by Nelda Kerr

Monday, October 22, 2012

Smashing Pumpkins / Chaifetz Arena / October 18

Since the days when they ruled the '90s, Billy Corgan has been the face and voice of The Smashing Pumpkins—and the guy notorious for obliterating any pre-conceived notions of what the band is supposed to sound like and play like. They've veered from a basement-dwelling My Bloody Valentine-worshipping band to one of radio's premiere pop/rock groups, to electro pomp and back again. Musically and lyrically, Smashing Pumpkins are in love with love. As in, 90% of their new material references, describes or desires that specific state of being.

But when it comes down to it, some things are better with hate. The Smashing Pumpkins begins and ends with Billy Corgan, whose bristling anger supercharges the band's best material, as he deftly strokes that fine line between commercial success and artistic purity. That confrontational, combative spirit was alive and well when Corgan brought an all-new crew of players to Chaifetz Arena last Wednesday in support of new Smashing Pumpkins album Oceania, but so was that deep desire to love and be loved. Corgan wants his audience to fully appreciate his newest band's newest music, but he knows that the love for his band is based on, and heavily biased toward, the work gone by. He loves to be loved, and he hates to have to prove himself again—it's a push and pull that actually makes for an enthralling performance.

Corgan's perverse streak started with the set list: rather than tuck new, unfamiliar songs between comfortable, familiar hits from the back catalog, the Pumpkins opted to perform the entire new album top-to-bottom. There are awesome moments spread throughout Oceania—"Panopticon" is a particular delight, and "Wildflowers" was a surprise in its grace.  But Oceania was not what drew thousands of kids weaned on '90s nostalgia, and the crowd barely registered the first hour of the set. Or it could be that the audience, present company included, was distracted by the much-lauded video mapping happening behind the band. An enormous sphere suspended behind Byrne's drums wobbled and warped with fractured video noise that featured CGI human faces, what looked like seismograph readings, some vague allusions to Joy Division's "Unknown Pleasures" album cover, and occasional flashes of bright, beautiful art. 

And to be honest, even the Pumpkins seemed not to find much pleasure in the heavy lifting of the album, getting the job done but rarely breaking out. Though Corgan did acknowledge the crowd with a few "thank you"s there was little to no banter, no playful execution. Neither band nor crowd knew what to do with each other. Wisely, as soon as the last notes of "Wildflower" rang out, Corgan and company dropped into a blistering cover of David Bowie's "Space Oddity," a space-age ode to the loneliness of being the first (and maybe last) of your kind that fits seamlessly into Corgan's personal navel-gazing oeuvre.

Once the Oceania set concluded, something strange happened: actual fun. As the songs grew familiar to the crowd, the new lineup proved themselves not just capable professionals, but insanely talented players. Guitarist Jeff "the shredder" Schroeder should be given an honorary pass into Rock n' Roll Valhalla just for his his sheer balls-to-the-wall guitar banter with Corgan. Guitar solos started flying, some of the bigger hits from the '90s began to make their appearance, and it seemed like all involved let loose, stretched out and had some real kicks. Schroeder and Corgan traded riffs and took turns shredding just for kicks. Bassist Nicole Fiorentino mostly played silent, making the hypnotic rhythm speak for her, which she held down admirably, doing both heavy and languid in equal measure. Drummer Mike Byrne was a piledriver, delivering the thunderous assault on the drumset required by both the new songs and former Pumpkin Jimmy Chamberlain's extremely complex, unrelenting, tom-heavy passages.

Even Corgan, notoriously tight-lipped regarding stage banter, loosened up and cracked jokes at the expense of our town's beloved baseball team. He wound up taking a swing at former Cardinal Albert Pujols that had the crowd howling: "I have a friend in crisis," he joked. "He keeps asking 'Did I do the right thing?'" He even made the bold assertion that, while he was a Cubs fan, he figured Detroit would beat us in the World Series. Near the end, the normally cagey Corgan admitted that he was finally having fun.

Admitting that, in front of fans who paid thirty bucks or more to hear classic Smashing Pumpkins hits and who were instead dragged through a new album that not even the band seemed to enjoy much—that is a ballsy move.

The set order post-"Oceania" was a mixed bag of deep cuts, B-sides and a scant selection of hits. The Bowie cover was followed by the harrowing rape-anthem "XYU" ("I was lonely and she was crazy"), itself a deep cut from Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness. It was followed by the charming Ted Bundy vibe of the violin-driven "Disarm." Two more Mellon Collie hits appeared afterward, including a drivingly sincere version of "Tonight Tonight" and a newly retro-fitted "Bullet With Butterfly Wings," which seethed and burned with that classic Pumpkins energy. Corgan took a moment to take a shot at himself during the introduction to  extended B-side "A Song For A Son," dedicating it to his father and calling himself an indiscretion that his mother never forgave his father for. Another self-loathing anthem, "Zero" ("God is empty / just like me"), came right after. Byrne's drums crackled at the intro to "Cherub Rock," which gave the perfect coda to the set, setting up expectations for more of the same driving rhythm. Instead, the band checked out for a few minutes, and came back to the thundering stomp of "Ava Adore," the biggest hit from an admitted flop of an album. The encore also included another shred-off between Corgan and Schroeder that built higher and higher and culminated in a crowd-teasing taste of Led Zeppelin's "Whole Lotta Love," before the two cracked up and continued forward. The final song in the encore was the sorta-hit "Muzzle," also from Mellon Collie. "Muzzle"'s autobiographical lyrics were a fitting cap for the evening: "Have you ever heard the words I'm singing in these songs?" he sings. "It's for the girl I've loved all along." Beneath all that anger and spitfire, "I can hear the silence of the world," he says.

Or maybe just the silence of the critics.

Because it wasn't the critics who packed the floor area of Chaifetz and lovingly embraced The Smashing Pumpkins: it was the crowd, packed to the gills with both '90s nostalgia seekers and Pumpkins die-hards, some of whom had been singing every last word of every obscure cut. They were all flashed a broad smile, thrown guitar picks and given loads of attention from Billy before he finally sauntered offstage, having played his own version of the perfect rock star for another couple of hours.

In the end, as ever, Billy Corgan is Billy Corgan and you're not. Despite all his rage, he still loves being in this band, he still loves making new songs for you to enjoy. He still loves love.

by Jason Robinson
photos by Corey Woodruff

PREVIEW>> Mason Jennings at Old Rock House

Thursday October 25
Old Rock House

With more than ten releases to his name over the past fifteen years, pop-folk wanderer Mason Jennings has documented his own gradual maturation into that reflective state that so often brings out the best in singer-songwriters. His advocates are notable songwriters as well: Modest Mouse’s Isaac Brock released Jennings’Boneclouds on his Glacial Pace label, and in 2008 Jack Johnson signed Jennings to his own Brushfire Records. Though mysterious narratives of medieval swordsmen and magical wells harken to Jennings’ previous work, his latest album, Minnesota, replaces his once-pervasive political statements with more intimate priorities: his wife and children. Painfully candid lyrics reveal episodes of intense darkness: two-thirds of the closing track is just Jennings repeating “no relief” over and over, and in “Wake Up” the songwriter begs his loved ones to stick with him as he tries to better himself: “So I went to a shrink and he said to me / Just don’t drink when you’re nervous, that’s the key / I said OK, that sounds fine / I didn’t tell him I was nervous all the time.”

Jennings’ lyrics are as unguarded as they are artful, and he takes full advantage of his long writing history to carefully bare his feelings here. The close environs of Old Rock House’s excellent Listening Room Series will be an ideal setting to catch every confession, especially since he’ll be likely to revisit earlier gems by himself and others—most notably “The Times They Are A-Changin’” or “The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll,” both of which are prominently featured on the extraordinary I’m Not There soundtrack.

by Kyle Kapper 

Friday, October 19, 2012

Rugged Chuggers Blow Through Town

Old 97's / The Travoltas / Rhett Miller
Tuesday October 16
The Pageant

It is now a trend to play an album front-to-back on a significant anniversary. In the last 30 days, at least three bands have toured through St. Louis with a classic album in tow: Matthew Sweet's "Girlfriend," Smoking Popes' "Born to Quit," and now Old 97's, with a vinyl re-issue of their 1997 album "Too Far To Care."

While in theory, this approach could lead to stale setlists and a listless audience, neither of those were present Tuesday night at The Pageant, where a modest but rabid crowd devoured nearly two hours of tunes and boo'ed the house lights when they inevitably came on. The Pageant may not have been the right size for this show—attendance was slim compared to capacity—but the performance still felt intimate. Most of that has to do with the charm and swagger of one Stuart Ransom Miller II, better known as Rhett Miller, better known as lead singer of Texas band The Old 97's.

First, Rhett Miller is a handsome man—I'm just putting that out there, because we all know it's true and we're all thinking it. This fine evening found Mr. Miller pulling double duty in one night, as the release date of Miller's most recent solo album, The Dreamer, conveniently coincides with the "Too Far to Care" reissue. As lead singer and main songwriter of Old 97's, a four-piece alt country outfit known for its fiery live performances, he's a bristling country-fried crooner with punk energy to spare. As Rhett Miller, solo artist, he's a touch more sensitive and vulnerable. But such a balancing act can take its toll, as was evidenced by his gasping, howling closer at the end of a marathon set .

Miller's solo set was very short at a mere 25 minutes, but it was enough to display a side of Miller the Old 97's crowd may not have been as familiar with. St. Louis singer-songwriter Amy K. joined Miller for a duet on "Firefly," and  she nearly stole the show. After the song, as Miller tore into set finale "The Wreck of the Old 97," she was visible on the side of the stage, taking pictures likely eliciting jealous rage in the ladies in attendance. 

"Too Far to Care" is the Old 97's third record, and it's the Mos Eisley of alt-country albums. It's a honky-tonk filled with meth-addled losers, love-sick junkies and all manner of downer characters, strung out on pills or booze and looking for love in all the wrong places. Opener "Timebomb" sets the tone for both the album and the live set: classic country turned fierce by playing heavier and faster and turning up some pedals. This is a band that clearly loves to tour. Murry Hammond, bassist extraordinaire, holds down the thumping oomph of an upright bass with aplomb and lends occasional vocals, as on "W. Texas Teardrops." Rhett Miller is a whirlwind of energy, sweating and spitting and stomping and strumming like his life depends on it. Ken Bethea is the ace in the hole, tearing country and punk a new one with fierce electric leads that have become the Old 97's stock in trade. The coal-fired engine behind the kit is drummer Philip Peeples, whose chugging thud of percussion keeps the songs on their tracks, if only just. 

The setlist was long: all fifteen tracks of "Too Far to Care," plus an additional twelve songs of material from their other albums, and a three-song encore on top of that (for those playing along at home that's 30 songs.) Such a massive set, one would imagine, would include some slower songs or duds. Not so in this case. Even when the set slowed just enough to nail the Merle Haggard gem "Mama Tried," and the marriage-proposal anthem "Question," it felt less like the train was losing speed and more like it was rounding a bend to rev back up on the straightaway. 

Such a tight and well-structured set didn't leave much room for banter, but what there was came off funny and touching. Like any savvy leading man, Miller knew to wish the Cardinals luck, though he added that, as a Texan, his heart lies with the Rangers, and promptly launched into "A State of Texas." He also took a moment before "Nightclub" to reminisce about the old Cicero's, where the band recorded a live set way back in '96. "I still have this scar on my head," he said wryly, recalling the notoriously low ceilings of Cicero's old location.

"Too Far to Care" may've debuted in the head-cracking basements of America, but the Old 97's are able to celebrate its anniversary at the Pageant: seems like this train's tracks are still headed in the right direction.

by Jason Robinson

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

The Big Payoff

Band of Skulls / Ponderosa
Monday, October 15
Old Rock House

God save a touring band. There are nights when you play to a handful of people, thankful that you have one of the most fun jobs ever, but really wishing you had a few more people there to make it feel less like work. Those nights are hard. They make the tour almost not worth it, a real ego-killer. You pack up your gear hoping against hope that next time it'll be better.

Ponderosa arrives in St. Louis from their home in Atlanta, GA, and referred at one point to playing here to exactly four people their last time out. Happily, this was much closer to that hoped-for night, as there were plenty of St. Louisans out to catch the early band. Ponderosa is a study in strange mashups that wouldn't work on paper—lead guitarist Kris Sampson draped himself in what looked like an Afghan rug, while the rest of his band leaned into hipster or rockabilly costuming. The music blended AM radio vocal harmonies with Ian Moore/Nick Lowe-style songcraft and washes of very loud surf guitar. Despite the strange-sounding combinations, the best songs recalled a heady mix of Kings of Leon's early work and Band of Horses, which points to great things in their future.

By the time Band of Skulls stepped up onstage, the Monday night crowd had closed on about 150 souls—not a bad turnout for a Southampton, UK band whose main successes have been a pair of stellar rock albums (Baby Darling Doll Face Honey from 2009 and 2012's Sweet Sour), touring with Black Rebel Motorcycle Club and appearing in the background of numerous video games, movies and TV shows.

Despite the Cardinals playoffs displayed on every TV in the Old Rock House, and their own tale of a tiny STL crowd back in the day, lead singer/guitarist Russell Marsden and bassist/vocalist Emma Richardson had the crowd well in their hands as the lights came on. The band is known for being "alternative," though one wonders if that means anything anymore. What they really are is a small band with a big sound, full force blues-rock that stomps and sways and crunches in all the right places. It's the kind of alchemical mixture of heavy and pop that brings to mind the southern rock traditions of archetypal rock n' roll distilled by current practitioners like Band of Horses and Kings of Leon.

Marsden certainly was aware of all rock n' roll traditions, stomping around the stage with his long hair, beard and Gretsch guitars while blazing through some impressive playing. All this while the rest of the band—Richardson and drummer Matt Hayward—played it cool and kept the beat alive. Their songs were greeted with huge cheers from the audience. Highlights include "The Devil Takes Care of His Own" and the new single "You Ain't Pretty But You Got It Goin' On," as well as "Friends" and "Fires." But "I Know What I Am" got some of the loudest response, likely due to its near ubiquity three years ago. From TV's "Friday Night Lights" and "Degrassi : The Next Generation" to videogames like "MLB 10 : The Show" and "Guitar Hero : Warriors of Rock," this song was everywhere.

And, like all of Band of Skulls' music, there's good reason. Their songs and records are streamlined American-sounding rock grab bags that constantly surprise and delight with both elegant simplicity and a deeper, darker undercurrent. This should play well with fans of fellow UKers MUSE, whose tour Band of Skulls jumps on starting this spring—and who are going to continue turning up in droves for this kind of music, hopefully banishing Band of Skulls' single-digit crowds for good.

by Jason Robinson

Saturday, October 13, 2012

The Baseball Project 7"

Baseball Project 7" with lenticular cover
The Cards just did it! Yay, sports! Okay, so let me just say that I am not a sports fan – which is a statement that can be downright blasphemous in this town – but I do enjoy when our home team wins (even if I couldn’t sit through a whole game if my life depended on it). After working in a record store as long as I have, I've noticed there's a strong connection between music, musicians, and baseball. A good chunk of the old school record store employees are sports fanatics, keeping up with every detail of the game they love (and not just for their fantasy sports teams). That's what formed the basis for The Baseball Project - a baseball themed super group featuring Peter Buck, Scott McCaughey, Steve Wynn and Linda Pitmon - stepped up to the plate at Euclid Records NOLA to record songs that would appear on the first 7-inch release from Euclid's sister store in the Bywater. Side 1 features the fun rockin' "El Hombre", which is an exclusive track about former Cardinal great Albert Pujols and his illustrious career with the Red Birds. On the flip side is "Harvey Haddix", the story of a Pirate who pitched twelve perfect innings, only to give it all up in the thirteenth, missing his chance of being listed alongside all those who did in baseball history. The live version featured on this single updates the lyrics to include pitchers who joined the club since initial studio recording was made. As with all the Euclid Sessions 45 Series, a portion of the proceeds go to a charitable cause, and are limited editions, so pick one up before it’s too late! Go Birdnals!  
by Jack Probst 

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Mission: White Album

Real Talk extended edition! Recently our Chicago compatriot Josh Siegel posed this question: "You're called in as executive producer by the Beatles, who've asked you to whittle the White Album down to a ten-track LP. What's your track list?"

It's a devil of a question, because at first it seems so obvious—you know the first few you'd definitely keep, you know the first couple you've never really been crazy about. I mean, you love the White Album, but could you live with "Bungalow Bill"? Probably. But there are 30 tracks on this monumental double slab of vinyl, so you can only save one song for every two you toss. And once you start thinking about the actual flow of the album, the album as album... all of a sudden it's like one of those dreams where you're late to your Calculus of Philosophy final.

We asked some musicians and music thinkers about their personal track lists, which you'll find below. But also: what's your personal White Album sound like? Is it crazy to keep "Piggies" on the track list—or is it crazy to take it off? These are the questions to keep you up at night...

First: the full track listing of the actual White Album, so you know the stakes:

Back in the U.S.S.R.: Dear Prudence: Glass Onion: Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da: Wild Honey Pie: The Continuing Story of Bungalow Bill: While My Guitar Gently Weeps: Happiness is a Warm Gun: Martha My Dear: I'm so tired: Blackbird: Piggies: Rocky Raccoon: Don't Pass Me By: Why don't we do it in the road?: I Will : Julia: Birthday: Yer Blues: Mother Nature's Son: Everybody's Got Something to Hide Except Me and My Monkey: Sexy Sadie: Helter Skelter: Long, Long, Long: Revolution 1: Honey Pie: Savoy Truffle: Cry Baby Cry: Revolution 9: Good Night

Let the White Wars begin:

Josh Siegel (singer/guitarist of Bailiff)
This question popped in my head while I was listening to the White Album and
recalling a clip from The Beatles Anthology Documentary where George Martin
says something about wishing they'd been more focused during The White
Album and made a "proper album" or something along those lines.  I went
with 10 songs because I recalled Lennon saying something like, "After Brian
(Epstein) died, Paul would say, "Let's make an album.  You know, let's get
our 10 songs in order and make an album."

Here's what I came up with:

1. Helter Skelter

Man, that would be a hot opener.  Possibly would've been the greatest
opening track on any Beatles album.  Forget "Back in the U.S.S.R.." Paul,
these are the vocals you want to introduce the album.

2. While My Guitar Gently Weeps

For me this is arguably the best song on the album.  It sounds so good
right after Helter!  It's dark and hip but then the chorus comes and it's
like a beautiful swaying willow tree.  Yeah I said it.

3. Revolution #2

Ok, it's time for a John song.  An anthem.  I'm not sure if this is
breaking the rules but I'm going with Revolution #2 even though #1 & #9 are
actually on the White Album.  Hell, I'm not even sure it's called #2 but
it's the one that appeared on the Past Masters album, it's an outtake from
the White Album that they released as a single.  The #2 version has the
right tempo and that awesome Gary Glitter drum groove.  Compare the
versions and you'll see what I mean.

4. Mother Nature's Son

Let's cool things off with a soft acoustic song.  I wanted to put this one
and 'Blackbird' on the album but ultimately realized that we can only have
one sweet pretty acoustic Paul song.  Mother Nature's Son is one of the
most focused and beautifully arranged songs on the White Album.  Look at
how much ground they cover in just under 2 minutes.  Ok, maybe Paul didn't
finish the lyrics and does a few too many "oohs" at the end.  Maybe he's
willing to write a few more before we send the LP to be pressed.

5. Everybody's Got Something to Hide Except for Me and My Monkey

This one wasn't on my original track list but when I replayed the record I
realized that this one does sound fantastic launching right after Mother
Nature's Son.  So maybe John just sings "C'mon" and "Take it easy" 30
times.  It rocks and we need a fast one after Mother Nature's Son.

6. Dear Prudence

Oh man, "Me and My Monkey" fades out and "Dear Prudence" fades in!  This
one will settle things a bit after that last rocker.  And whoa, while I was
listening I thought, "Man, I love Ringo, look at how he keeps morphing the
drum grooves," only to read that McCartney played drums on this one.

7. Rocky Raccoon

Ok we're gonna keep things settled for one more song after Prudence.  This
is one of McCartney's best narratives.  It's somehow sad and funny, oh, and
incredibly catchy.  Well done, Paul.  Unlike 'Blackbird' this one does not
seem to compete with 'Mother Nature's Son'.  Maybe it's the Scott Joplin
section in Rocky Raccoon?

8. Yer Blues

This is a must for me.  And it's time to stir things up pretty good after
those last two lighter songs.  This track has got to be the rawest blues
songs the Beatles ever recorded.  It's hard to know the right place to put
it on the album but I've got to have faith that it sort of doesn't matter.
Once it kicks off no one will question it.

9. Piggies

Ok, this was the hardest track to pick by far.  There are many songs I
prefer over this one.  I wanted to get "I'm So Tired" on this album but
another Lennon blues song doesn't make sense here.  And it feels like six
Lennon songs on a 10-song LP might cause tension in the band ;)  Trust me I
want to get another George song on here but "Long, Long, Long" doesn't fit
and I know a lot of folks would insist on "Savoy Truffle" but it doesn't
sound right here either.  And well, you're just not going to convince me to
put Ringo's "Don't Pass Me By" on here.  So I went with 'Piggies" a song I
never listen to on it's own but somehow a Bach-influenced song about pigs
just fits here.  It's musically unlike anything else on the album and
lyrically it breaks up the darkness of "Yer Blues" and the closing track.

10. Happiness is a Warm Gun

This track was easy pick for me.  The hard part for me was that I was
tempted to include 'Julia' on the album but I felt like minor arpeggiated
guitar stuff sounded a little two similar to the opening of the Happiness
is a Warm Gun.  This is one of those magical Beatles songs that starts out
one place then takes a hard right in another direction and then out of
nowhere finds itself resolving so satisfyingly at an end.

Jason Robinson (singer of the Orbz, host of the KDHX's the mixtape, and Eleven contributor)
1. Revolution 1
2. Back in the USSR
3. I Will
4. Obli-Di-Olba-Da
5. Happiness Is A Warm Gun
6. Why Don't We Do It in The Road?
7. Helter Skelter
8. Blackbird
9. Birthday
10. Everybody's Got Something To Hide Except For Me And My Monkey
11. Revolution 9

[Though it's 1 track longer than the limitation, the final track being
"Revolution 9" makes the opening and ending thematically match, so
it's a requirement.]

So, with this remix, my intention was to trim the fat and make the
album more of a rock-heavy hit-laden pop album, the kind The Beatles
pioneered with Sgt Peppers, while still keeping the spirit of
experimentation and roots/blues crate-digging that permeated the
original bloated track list. Certain songs were deemed way too sappy
("Julia", "Mother Nature's Son" et al) while others were just
seemingly out of place ("Wild Honey Pie" should never have made the
cut in any just universe).

Moving tracks around you have the two big slabs of rock up front (put
your best foot forward and all). We then have that sudden drop to "I
Will"'s kinda syrupy sentimentality, or as I call it "pretty much
everything McCartney ever wrote" (zing!). Then comes the funnest
sequence this side of the 2nd half of Abbey Road - the onomatopoeia of
"Obli-Di", the disparate darkness of "Happiness..." and the randy,
saucy "Why Don't We Do It...?", the pure psychotic bliss of "Helter
Skelter", followed by another emotional drop into McCartney territory
for "Blackbird" before returning to rockville with "Birthday" and
"Everybody's Got Something To Hide..." Then, you close the record with
"Revolution 9", leaving the listener wanting to start the record

Jason Hutto (Tower Groove Records and Smoking Baby Studio)
Why would I want to edit "the White Album"? I know it's an interesting question. One that I would actually like to read people's responses, but I'm in no position to answer. I don't necessarily think its a "perfect" album, but what is? I feel like I'm so far removed from the intentions of that record, and to use to hearing all of the material, that in a way, even if I didn't care for a track growing up, I still got comfortable with it over time. Those tracks for me, have become just as important in how they are sequenced in a record that is so full of amazing songs. I love the hodgepodge of that piece of work. It's a great look into an incredible group of talent, spiraling out of control from each other. Showcasing the strengths that made "the Beatles", and the weaknesses that were the Beatles. An all-too-important record in the history of music for me to edit.

Stephen Baier (Dots Not Feathers)
1. Glass Onion
2. While My Guitar Gently Weeps
3. Happiness Is a Warm Gun
4. Dear Prudence
5. Mother Nature’s Son
6. Julia
7. Blackbird
8. Rocky Raccoon
9. Martha My Dear
10. Sexy Sadie

When I was in middle school my muddled attempts to impress female peers were always started with a song. I would croon “Rocky Raccoon” on the school bus, during recess, or in the hallways. Others banked on their sports skills or good looks to woo women, I relied on my ability to match Paul McCartney’s vibrato while I would sing, “Only to find Gideon’s bible…” Floundered success rate aside, the songs on the White Album are not so much woven into my daily life, but more so thrust into my bones, a detailed account of a mercurial teenager who wanted nothing more than meet Bungalow Bill and bad mouth Sir Walter Raleigh. To trim the White Album to ten songs was akin to dropping the guillotine on 20 family members.
When I listen to “Piggies”, I see the sus in starch white shirts stirring up the dirt while a blissed harpsichord fugues along. In their eyes, the mercurial teenager deserves a damn good whacking for such a casual edit of a revolutionary album. With ambitious compositions, superb songwriting, and an omnipotent band tearing at the seams over 93 minutes, the White Album has become the colloquialism upon which every band’s greatest success is measured.

Tim Gebauer (RFT's 2012 Best songwriter, and composer at Electropolis)
Back in the USSR
Dear Prudence
I'm So Tired
Happiness Is a Warm Gun

Helter Skelter
Revolution 1
While My Guitar Gently Weeps
I Will
Revolution 9

Paige Brubeck (singer/guitarist of Sleepy Kitty, and curator of Eleven's Paper Time Machine)

This was a hard call to make! I feel like my list is a little of what I kept, but also a lot of what I cut. For example, Piggies and Helter Skelter were the first to go (which I'd be happy to discuss in person.) I'm a fan of the ten track album so I like this challenge. "Rocky Raccoon" was my wild card. At the last minute, as I was typing this list it bumped Birthday. Maybe I should put "Birthday" back! Ah, anyways:

1. Back in the U.S.S.R.
2. While My Guitar Gently Weeps
3. Revolution 1
4. Glass Onion
5. Rocky Raccoon

6. I'm So Tired
7. Blackbird
8. Revolution 9
9. I Will
10. Julia

Monday, October 8, 2012

Go See "Searching for Sugar Man," Like, Tonight. Seriously.

If you're a musician, or you legitimately love music, it's absolutely in your interest to get over to Plaza Frontenac by or before this Thursday night to see "Searching for Sugar Man." Consider it essential viewing and consider this an urgent notice to you personally. If you ever did love the legends and mythology and bleak lonely power and cathartic electricity of of rock music, punk music, folk rock, or classic rock, this is a film you should see in the theater.

The thing is: I can't tell you any more about it. The less you know about it the better. But I just went to see it this evening—we were literally the only two people in the theater—and I'm still trying to figure out what I can tell you about it that will get you there but not lessen the power of the narrative. 

To start: you should see it specifically in the theater because it's beautiful to look at. The environmental cinematography is stunning, and the archival photos look like something Bob Reuter might have shot in St. Louis; that is to say, gritty and enigmatic and iconic black and white images of fascinating characters in a busted-up city. And there are shots of South Africa that'll make you want to go there, pretty much guaranteed: a vista of city grid butting up against cloud-capped mountains, red rocky cliffs above a blinding blue sea, endless acres of African forest, street-level city life.

Also: "Searching for Sugar Man" is a documentary about a songwriter—you haven't heard of him, and you haven't heard his music—and his music is haunting, urban, pissed off, effortlessly classic. The music alone is worth the price of admission.

But also: go to the theater because you probably won't see it otherwise. Sure, it might end up on Netflix or whatever, but it somehow won't get seen. And then you'll have missed a true gem.

So don't read any more about the movie, don't put it off, and do get yourself over to Plaza Frontenac. Trust me on this one. And if you go, after you've seen it, write me a letter so we can talk about it, cos I can't talk about it with anyone yet and it's driving me nuts!

Sunday, October 7, 2012

John Cusack relives old glories with Peter Gabriel in LA

I may be old, but for everyone my age, there are very few scenes in movies as iconic as Lloyd Dobler standing outside Diane Court's bedroom with a boom box blasting Peter Gabriel's "In Your Eyes". It's a completely cheesy and completely unrealistic...but it's not. Every guy in the world has thought about doing something that dumb and every woman in the world has dreamed of it happening to them. Of course, if it did happen, I think the odds are greater the girl would have the guy arrested than invite him to travel to Europe with her when she leaves for her scholarship. Last night at Peter Gariel's show in LA, John Cusack joined him on stage briefly and presented him with a boom box like the one he held over his head all those years ago. Pretty cool.
Photo credit: Timothy Norris

Some more fun facts (or possibly myths) about the scene. The rumors have always been that director Cameron Crowe wanted to use a Replacements song, "Within Your Reach", but the movie studio requested "In Your Eyes". Without "In Your Eyes" the scene might not have been as iconic, but it would've been a more realistic choice that Lloyd (or Cusack) would have made. After all, the other rumor is that Cusack was playing Fishbone through the radio as he filmed it.


Monday, October 1, 2012

Pokey LaFarge at Off Broadway 9/28/12

By Kyle Kapper
Pokey LaFarge, photo by Bill Streeter
            Thanks to Pokey LaFarge and the South City Three, Off Broadway transformed last night into an effervescent dance hall. Men in fedoras twirled ladies in period dresses with flowers in their hair, as St. Louis welcomed home one of its most honored sons. You’d be hard pressed to decide whether those onstage or in the crowd were more thrilled to be at this roaring party; with exuberance from both sides, band and congregation seemed like old friends excited to see each other again.
            Greeting friends and fans before the show, Pokey was the wholesome Everyman so strongly mythologized and associated with the period from which many of his musical stylings originate. Jimmy Stewart himself couldn’t better represent the American man of yesteryear. Sporting a buttoned-up blue collar and heavily shellacked hair, LaFarge offered autographs and hugs for fans of all ages, including the knee-high ones he later joked had been “snuck in illegally” by their parents into the 18+ show.
            Then the houselights dimmed, Pokey reappeared with red tie, flag pin, and pinstriped wide-lapeled jacket completing his all-American semblance, and the real magic began.
            Opening with "Devil Ain't Lazy," a feisty swing standard from 1947, the band wasted no time infusing the scene with raw but precise energy. Pokey's audacious bravura blended wide acoustic dynamics (shout-to-croon and back again) in a voice as big as Bing’s. With unwavering confidence and charisma, LaFarge and the South City Three launched into several staples from their records, including a boisterous call-and-response take on "Pack It Up," the flip side of the seven-inch produced by Jack White (yes, that Jack White, who they were due to open for the next night at NY's Radio City Music Hall). He also revealed numerous tracks from a new album to be released next spring, including the bouncy Midwest tribute "Central Time" as well as "Close the Door," a surprisingly biting rebuke against the US health-care system (“Or lack thereof,” LaFarge sneered in the sole unsmiling moment of the evening).
Bolstering the cool-cat swingster with fearless panache was the South City Three, a troupe of scrupulous musical dynamos. Joey Glynn drove the tempo home on his double bass; curly-headed Adam Hoskins played the part of an Amish gent who'd made a deal at the crossroads to become an archtop guitar guru. Ryan Koenig, mustache waxed to split on both sides like a snake’s tongue, channeled a cross between a Wild West dueler and a Looney Tunes villain. Grinning mischievously in a black flat-brimmed hat, suspenders, and a yellow bowtie, he rounded out the ensemble with incredible mouth harp and washboard percussion.
Adam Hoskins,
photo by Bill Streeter
At one point in this storied evening, Hoskins and Koenig improvised stage banter as Pokey made himself comfortable, purging the jacket and tie, loosening the collar, rolling up his sleeves, and gulping a healthy glass of whiskey. The moment dissected the show into two halves, the first half a pristine powerhouse jolt of American tradition and the second, kicked off with a spirited (har!) rendition of "Drinkin' Whiskey Tonight," where the buttoned down Pokey all but invited the crowd onstage in a blast of collective carousing. Offering toast after toast to the crowd, and even honoring an obscure song request, Pokey did bring onstage the brilliant Chloe Feoranzo of St. Louis treasure Miss Jubilee and the Humdingers, whose virtuosic clarinet brought a spice of ragtime to the revelry.
The era-bending evening had begun earlier with the opening act Colonel Ford, who are the perfect response to those lamenting for “how country music used to be.” With scuffed boots and piped cowboy shirts, and with song introductions such as “Alright, who likes Buck Owens out there?,” Colonel Ford offers authentic passage through dusty and worn back roads, with occasional detours into gospel and even the occasional zoot suit swing. And so the stage had been set and set well for the homecoming party for Pokey LaFarge, who after touring with Jack White this autumn will be brandishing his trademark kazoo solos at a New Year’s Eve gig in Nashville’s legendary Ryman Theatre with Old Crow Medicine Show.
For a few fleeting hours last night, though, the band put the home in homage. “There are so many great St. Louis bands,” Koenig mused, “and they all play right here. You just don’t get the response in some other places that you get here.” Later in the evening, a sweat-soaked Pokey LaFarge offered a piece of advice perhaps as timeless as it was revealing about the bandleader himself: “Don’t be afraid to work for a living.” Sage wisdom from a rising gypsy, who thankfully takes time to honor his own roots just as he honors America’s.